The Wolfendens

Maybe you read in the paper recently about the scheme to build 35 houses at Marsh Fold Lane, Halliwell. There will be 19, 4-bedroom, 11, 3-bedroom and 5, 2-bedroom homes built on the site of the former Marsh Fold Mill. Local residents welcome the scheme for it will rid them of a rubbish-strewn site, aptly described as a ‘Grot Spot’.

Marsh Fold Lane lies in one of Halliwell’s oldest districts ‘The Victory’; it runs from Chorley Old Road, just below the Victory pub to Musgrave Road. Parallel to it but nearer to Bolton is Kirkhall Lane. Marsh Fold Mill was in the area between the two lanes. James Rawsthorne Wolfenden built the mill 1865-1870. Later in 1884 it became one of the John Musgrave Atlas Mills. It was Atlas Mill No 5 but locally it seemed to be known as Wolfenden’s Mill.

James Rawsthorne Wolfenden, 1811-1886 lived at Westwood, Chorley New Road or more exactly Kirkhall Lane. He was educated at Bolton Grammar School and became clerk to the Springfield Paperworks. Subsequently he succeeded his father, James, a stockbroker at Silverwell Street and agent for the Pilkington Estates where he was joined by his brother Charles.

In 1860 James purchased the old Flash Street Mills from Messrs Bolling and in 1860-1870 built the Colombia Mill at Kirkhall lane. Major Pilkington, Commander of the Bolton Light Horse in the late 18th century lived in West Cottage on the Bolton side of Kirkhall Lane. Later J.R. Wolfenden demolished the cottage and built

himself a fine house ‘Westwood’. On the Halliwell Side of the lane were his mills, so it could be said, ‘he lived over the shop’. James Wolfenden was survived by his wife, his son Henry of Birkdale, Southport and four daughters, three who were unmarried. He had a long record of public service back to 1842, was clerk to Little Bolton Trustees and Treasurer to Bolton Corporation, something of a financial ‘whiz kid’. Twice he was mayor in the cotton famine years of 1861-2 & 1862-3.

Apparently his daughters, the Misses Wolfenden had a keen practical interest in animal welfare. Unlike some of our present day animal rights activists they donated drinking troughs for the animals. The parts of one such trough still remain in the courtyard of Smithills Coaching House Restaurant. It is inscribed on one side ‘Open thy throat for the Dumb’, and on the other ‘In Memoriam. The gift of the Misses Wolfenden, Westwood, Bolton. May 1896.’ This trough used to be sited at the junction of the Belmont/Blackburn Roads.

A similar trough was donated in 1897 and sited at the Manchester Road end of Trinity Street where cattle of the town could drink. I believe the sisters also paid for the erection of signs on hills around the town to warn the drivers of horses and carts to take care not to ill treat their horses by forcing them to tackle hills too quickly or using only one horse when two were required. With the passing of horse drawn traffic and the need for horse troughs the only memorials to the Wolfendens are the Halliwell street names, Wolfenden Street, Rawsthorne Street and Westwood Road.

Marsh Fold Lane has long been of interest to local historians, in the past it has been suggested that the Martyr, George Marsh once lived there. Also that a weaver’s cottage had a footprint in the flag floor similar to the one at Smithills Hall. This seems doubtful, a figment of someone’s fertile imagination. No doubt there was a ‘Fold’ there, a small farm and a few cottages. Someone called Marsh could have lived there but I think more likely it was a marshy area.

The name Kirkhall Lane has also been the subject of speculation in the past. It has been suggested it was used nearby. Most likely it was because a family named Kirkhall owned land in the area which bordered the Mortfield Estates. In 1729 yeoman Ralph Kirkhall is recorded in the Halliwell Township Book as performing the office of constable for land he occupied at Mortland. The present Mortfield Lane was once called Kirkhall Gate and old maps show a stream followed the course of Kirkhall Lane and Mortfield Lane. It joined a larger brook flowing from Doffcocker to fill the lodges at Avenue Street which supplied the water for the Mortfield Bleachworks.

It will be interesting to see the housing development at Marsh Fold; things certainly seem to have been changing in Halliwell recently.

By H. Jones